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For Further Reading

Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

Haldane, J. B. S. 1932. The Causes of Evolution. Longman: UK.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory


*Long, John A. 1995. The Rise of Fishes: 500 Million Years of Evolution. John Hopkins University Press: MD

This lavish overview of the evolution of fishes is not the most detailed but its illustrations and photographs give a rich sense of the evidence on which our understanding of fish evolution is based. It makes a highly readable reference for students and a terrific desk reference for instructors called upon to teach aspects of fish evolution.

Reference for: Chapter 12, Spotlight 12.1

*Raup, David. 1991. Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? W.W. Norton: NY

This “little” book summarizes the evidence for five major extinctions in the geologic records and their causes. It’s a highly readable and engaging account that will quickly bring the reader up to date on this fascinating topic.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory


*Stott, Rebecca. 2003. Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History’s Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough. Norton: NY

This book brings to the forefront Darwin’s painstaking and highly important work on barnacles. It might be argued that Darwin formulated his ideas about evolution and natural selection from studying barnacles. Although this is a “storybook”, in the sense that it weaves a narrative about Darwin’s barnacle work, it does illuminate this important and little known work in an engaging and instructive manner.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

*Carroll, Sean B. 2006. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. W. W. Norton: NY

The evolutionary record is contained in the DNA of organisms. It is a history that we can finally begin to read.



*Coyne, Jerry A., and H. Allen Orr. 2004. Speciation. Sinauer Associates: MA.

Coyne and Orr have written a textbook covering all aspects of speciation, emphasizing modern research on this topic.


*Ellis, Richard. 2001. Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea. Viking Penguin Books: NY

Ellis is a masterful storyteller and illustrator. There are better books on this subject but if you like Ellis way of weaving facts, this book should please you.


*Fortey, Richard. 1997. Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. Vintage Books: NY

Fortey narrates the history of life on Earth, citing his own work and the research of other scientists to piece together the puzzles of how life evolved.


*Fortey, Richard. 2000. Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution. Alfred A. Knopf: NY

All you ever wanted to know about trilobites in an engaging, delightful prose.

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 1989. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. W. W. Norton: NY

Stephen Jay Gould delights some and irritates others but he always manages to inspire thoughtful reflection on a topic. In this book, he discusses in great detail the Burgess Shale and how it paints a picture of the “progression” of evolution unlike what is commonly perceived. Gould sees evolution not only as “survival of the fittest” but also as “survival of the lucky.”

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 2001. The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth. W.W. Norton: IA

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 2002. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: MA

This immense volume details Gould’s provocative and often controversial views on the evolution of life on Earth. To his credit, Gould is typically entertaining, and this book reads like a good novel. Unfortunately, you have to read a lot of it if you are generally unfamiliar with his ideas or the nuances of evolution. Nonetheless, it’s an essential reference for a biologist’s library.

*Hull, David L. 2001. Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science. Cambridge University Press: UK

Hull’s essays educate and entertain and get the reader to thinking more deeply about science and its effects on humanity. His essays on evolution are a big help to those who need a refresher or those who require greater ammunition in the verbal wars with antievolutionists.

*Johnson, Kirk R., and Richard K. Stucky. 1995. Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth. Roberts Rinehart Publishers: CO.

Based on dioramas at the Denver Museum of Natural History, this delightfully illustrated book traces the history of life from microbes to mammals, with an emphasis on dinosaurs. Its brevity notwithstanding, this book does a great job of providing the fossil evidence on which the scientific interpretation of the history of life is based.

*Kirschner, Marc W. and John C. Gerhart. 2005. The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma. Yale University Press: CT

Kirscner and Gerhart tackle the origins of new species and evolutionary complexity.

*Knoll, Andrew. 2003. Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth. Princeton University Press: NJ

This is an outstanding book on the evolution of Earth and its biota. Knoll is one of the pioneers in the field of geobiology and his up-to-date scientific account of the field makes this an excellent reference and an entertaining read. Knoll exposes the controversies and examines the evidence that surrounding them. Most narratives don’t make good reference books but Knoll’s is an exception. If you are trying to choose between “histories of life on Earth”, pick this one.

*Larson, Edward J. 2004. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Modern Library: NY

This book sketches the development of evolutionary theory. It’s primarily written for general audiences and so loses some of the detail required for students and instructors.

*Margulis, Lynn, and Dorion Sagan. 1986. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Simon and Schuster: NY.

A provocative hypothesis about the interdependency of higher organisms and bacteria.

*Margulis, Lynn. 1998. The Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: UK

Margulis is not one to shy away from controversy. Her endosymbiotic hypothesis was met with great skepticism originally but is now widely accepted. In this book, she applies her principles of symbiosis to the full range of life and its communities, including Earth.

*Margulis, Lynn, and Michael F. Dolan. 2002. Early Life: Evolution of the PreCambrian Earth, 2nd Edition. Jones and Bartlett: MA

*Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: MA

Professor Sean thinks this is one of the most important books ever written. It defends the place of biology in science and retells the history of evolutionary thinking from pre- to neo-Darwinism. At more than 900 pages, it’s an intimidating volume, but Mayr’s prose and his way of explaining concepts makes this book a delight to read. You will only want to read several pages of it at a time as Mayr provokes deep reverie with every page. But you will have a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of evolution upon reading this book than is possible with just about any other book.

*Mayr, Ernst. 2001. What Evolution Is. Basic Books: NY

Any book by Ernst Mayr is worth reading, according to Professor Sean. This book provides a solid foundation for different aspects of evolution and evolutionary processes.

*Weiner, Jonathan. 1994. The Beak of the Finch. Vintage Books: NY

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has become a textbook for learning about evolution.

*Zimmer, Carl. 1998. At the Water’s Edge: Fish With Fingers, Whales With Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea. Simon and Schuster: NY

An excellent narrative on macroevolution.

*Zimmer, Carl. 2001. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. HarperCollins: NY

This is the companion book to the Evolution video series by PBS.

*Moorehead, Alan. 1969. Darwin and the Beagle. Harper & Row: NY

This “old” book is notable for its abundant photos, illustrations and drawings, many of which are full page and stunning, and for its highly readable and intimate account of Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard HMS Beagle. It’s not as dense with information as other books on Darwin but it captures the spirit of his curiosity and scientific reasoning.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

The Endless Voyage: Building Blocks, Water World and Survivors (written by W. S. Chamberlin) (Episodes 18, 19 and 21). 2002 (VHS and DVD). Intelecom.

Professor Sean appeared in several of the episodes of this series and helped develop learning activities to support it. While some episodes are better than others, The Endless Voyage provides one of the most complete and up-to-date series on oceanography available

: : Encyclopedia of the Sea : :
Chapter Two Image

Cetacean Behavior, Social Organization, and Communication by Sean Chamberlin

While a discussion of behavior and communication in whales and dolphins invades the purview of marine biology, these topics are increasingly relevant to oceanography as cetaceans may be negatively impacted by acoustic studies of the physics and geology of the ocean (e.g. ATOC and seismic air-gun surveys, respectively). These topics are also important in consideration of the impact of newly deployed sonar devices, i.e., LFAS, and efforts to prevent their deployment. An understanding of cetacean behavior also sheds light on controversies related to the conservation of these animals. Despite international protections, a significant number of whales and dolphins are killed each year though human activity, including fishing, shipping, legal whaling, marine pollution and other causes. Certain whaling nations, like Japan and Norway, continue to press for the resumption of whaling for commercial purposes. These issues continue to have importance for the way we view and manage our ocean resources.

Studies of cetacean behavior and its relationship with life history and ecology belong to a field of study known as behavioral ecology. Behavioral ecologists attempt to discern how behavior(s) enable an organism to survive and reproduce in its environment. Variations in behavior in response to changes in the environment are also important.

The study of behaviors by cetologists—scientists who study cetaceans—has historically been a qualitative endeavor. From John Lilly’s early attempts to communicate with dolphins to behavioral studies on captive animals to tracking of wild populations, cetologists have struggled to find ways to quantify what are largely descriptive and somewhat anecdotal observations. How do you put a number on play? Aggression? Mating behaviors? How do you quantify complex sounds in a meaningful way? Fortunately, new tools, new approaches and new understandings have put cetology on the threshold of a major transition “from qualitative, descriptive natural history to focused, quantitative analyses of the social interactions and social relationships of individuals” (Samuel and Taylor 2000).

The key to the transformation of cetacean science lies in an increasing arsenal of techniques that enable scientists to identify individuals, distinguish between sexes (not always easy in cetaceans), determine their genetic relationships, track and record their movements and classify and statistically analyze their behaviors and sounds, among others. Recognition of the unique natural markings of individual animals have enabled observations of the movements and activities of individuals and built a long-term data set from which hypotheses about cetacean behavior could be constructed. Advances in animal behavior theory from other disciplines provided a framework for cetacean studies and has led to the development of rigorous methods suited for testing hypotheses. Like much of oceanography, studies on cetaceans increasingly rely on quantitative methods and statistics to better understand the complex and intricate behaviors of these animals.

Most behaviors are grouped into categories based on function. Behavioral ecologists ask “what problem does this behavior solve?” (after Tyack 2000; following Alcock 1998). The major functional behaviors of cetaceans include:

  1. protection: predator avoidance and defense
  2. agonistic behavior: competition with other animals or between individuals
  3. socialization: social interactions
  4. sexual behavior: finding, courting, choosing mate
  5. parenting: care and protection of young
  6. travel: dispersal and migration
  7. foraging—finding, identifying, capturing and consuming prey (discussed above)

Behaviors may vary in space and time, they may involve single or multiple interactions and they may occur between two or more individuals. They may occur above or below the surface of the water, they may be associated with any of a number of other activities, like swimming, diving or resting, and they may change during the course of an animal’s life. As you might suspect, cetacean behavior and its study can be quite complex.

Most cetacean behaviors also involve a system of communication that includes tactile, visual, acoustic and/or chemical signals. So far as we know, chemical communication does not occur in cetaceans (as it does in many terrestrial animals). Communication, as traditionally defined, involves a two-way exchange of information between a sender and receiver with the requirement that received signals are acted upon in some manner or that the information “reduces uncertainty” in the receiver. Peter Tyack (2000) promotes a broader and perhaps more pragmatic view of animal communication that encompasses a range of possible signals that function to transmit information in ways that may not be included in the classic definition. These communication signals are intimately associated with the functional behaviors listed above and include:

  1. advertisement: a signal designed to influence the decision of the receiver, i.e., mating songs of male humpback whales
  2. tonic signals: the classic transmission-response form of communication, i.e., mother-calf responses after separation
  3. deception: a signal designed to mislead the receiver, i.e., threat displays
  4. environmentally altered: variations in signals caused by the presence of an object or substance in the environment (physical, geological, chemical or biological) from which information may be gleaned, i.e. locating another individual’s depth and range based on their echo
  5. interception: recognizing or intercepting a signal intended for another receiver, i.e., find prey by listening to their acoustic signals
  6. learned signals: recognizing the signals of other species and what they mean, i.e., dolphin attraction to fishing vessels when the winch is activiated

Though this list may appear somewhat abstract, the practical examples which follow should make clear the use and importance of these signals in cetacean behavior. We invite you to explore as well the scientific literature for a close look at this rapidly advancing and exciting field of science.